Sheriff’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau detectives are seeking the public’s assistance with an engineering fraud investigation.
On April 16, 2014, Palos Verdes Engineering Company, a civil engineering firm doing business in the city of Rolling Hills Estates since 1985, contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau and informed them of suspected fraud involving former employees of the company.
Through the investigation, Wilfrido Rodriguez and Ruben Gutierrez, former employees of the firm, became persons of interest in an ongoing criminal investigation involving the potential crimes of Civil Engineering Fraud, Grand Theft of Money, Theft of Company Identity, and Forgery of a Civil Engineer’s Seal and Signature.
Rodriguez and Gutierrez worked as architectural and engineering drafters. The alleged fraudulent acts are said to have occurred between the dates of late 2003 and early 2014.
Palos Verdes Engineering Company is a victim in this matter and had no business relations with the persons of interests during the time the alleged fraud was occurring. Due to the fact Rodriguez and Gutierrez are not licensed professional civil engineers, structures built based on their engineering calculations and specifications may be unsafe and not suitable for habitation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has sent contact letters to homeowners, developers, and architectural designers whose properties have been identified as possibly being associated with fraudulent structural engineering. Investigators believe additional properties associated with structural engineering fraud may exist but have not yet been identified.
Rodriguez and Gutierrez appear to have carried out their alleged criminal activities by providing fraudulent structural engineering plans for residential room additions, new structure single family residences, and two-story multi-unit duplexes. At this time it is not known how many construction projects involve structural engineering fraud in connection with this case. It is estimated to be several hundred, with projects occurring in an estimated 56 Southern California cities.
It is also believed that additional homeowners, land developers and architectural designers may have contracted with Rodriguez and Gutierrez, believing they were receiving licensed structural engineering services. Rodriguez and Gutierrez, neither of whom are licensed civil engineers, are alleged to have perpetrated fraud by preparing structural engineering plans using software stolen from the Palos Verdes Engineering Company which depicted the company’s name and logo upon the fraudulent structural engineering plans.
Palos Verdes Engineering Company’s civil engineer seal and forged signature was also used on structural engineering records to make the plans appear authentic, and as if they had been reviewed and approved by a licensed professional civil engineer.
The photographs of Wilfrido Rodriguez and Ruben Gutierrez have been released in furtherance of the ongoing criminal investigation.
Detectives are asking anyone who may have had business dealings with Rodriguez or Gutierrez, or who may have been provided with fraudulent or unlicensed services, contact Detective Rod Barton of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau at (562) 906-5405.